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Saturday, January 19 , 2019, 7:49 pm | Fair 56º


New Building Blends Into Historic Santa Maria High School Campus

Community open house and dedication planned for Saturday

Santa Maria High School Principal Joe Domingues, who graduated from the school in 1993, stands in front of the new two-story classroom building on the campus.
Santa Maria High School Principal Joe Domingues, who graduated from the school in 1993, stands in front of the new two-story classroom building on the campus. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Band and choir students at Santa Maria High School are sounding a happy note since moving into a new classroom facility built for music lessons, not wood working.

Santa Maria Joint Union High School District and city officials will gather at 10 a.m. Saturday on the campus to mark completion of the two-story structure Principal Joe Domingues calls the “new Broadway building.”

A community open house and dedication are planned to celebrate the $11.5 million building, which was partially funded through Measure C, approved by voters in 2004.

With its mission-style architecture, the 26,000-square-foot classroom building sits along the Broadway side of campus, in between the school’s Administration Building and historic Ethel Pope Auditorium

“I think it’s kind of cool and symbolic of the past and future at the same time,” said Domingues, who graduated from the high school in 1993. “I think it’s also pride for the community because obviously the community has shown an investment to their local public schools. And it’s right off Broadway so everyone sees it.”

A building that once sat on the site was torn down in the 1970s, and the area sat empty for a couple of decades, serving as a gathering spot for students until temporary modular classroom were moved in to ease overcrowding for a time in the 1990s.

Santa Maria High is the district’s oldest campus — the first class graduated in 1894 with a handful of members. The campus today boasts an enrollment of approximately 2,600 students.

Students have anxiously awaited the new facility after coping with a converted wood shop lacking acoustical benefits.

“I think we’re pretty grateful for the new room after the years of talking about it,” said senior Azriella De La Pena, who is taking band class in the building. “It’s a big transition moving from an old wood shop to a new building (with) air conditioning and spacing.”

Just weeks since attending their first classes in the new building, the students say they’ve quickly learned to appreciate the improved acoustics, which mean they can hear each other playing and make adjustments as needed.

“It’s a little bit unbelievable because we’ve always talked about this and we always had an idea of what it would look like, but now that we actually get the real thing it’s kind of surreal,” said Francisco Chicas, a junior enrolled in jazz and marching band.

Santa Maria High School music students, from left, Amalio Villalovos, Saul Hernandez, Elizabeth Bautista, Azriella De La Pena and Francisco Chicas standing in the band room at the campus’s new two-story building. Click to view larger
Santa Maria High School music students, from left, Amalio Villalovos, Saul Hernandez, Elizabeth Bautista, Azriella De La Pena and Francisco Chicas standing in the band room at the campus’s new two-story building. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

In addition to an office for staff, one small room houses walls of lockers to store musical instruments. New uniform racks are set up for the distinctive red-and-white marching band uniforms.

“I’ve been teaching for twenty plus years, and this is a by far the nicest facility I’ve ever had — acoustically, access to performance area, outside performance area,” said Aaron Thomas, who previously taught in the Midwest and South.

The building is home a variety of music and international language lessons featuring 21st century classroom design and furniture, prompting one student to remark it looked like a university.

Those modern educational features include large sliding and fixed whiteboards, three mounted big screen monitors with the capacity to display the teacher’s tablet screen and other electronics, furniture that can be easily moved into different leaning group arrangements, and other learning aids, district officials noted.

With construction spanning more than 18 months, this school year marked the first time students and teachers move in to use the facility.

“Our new classroom building reflects the historic nature of the campus on the outside with components of 21st Century learning on the inside,’’ said district Superintendent Mark Richardson. “It represents the combined efforts of past and present school boards, district staff, but most of all it is a testament to the resolute community support for education in the Santa Maria Valley.”

The new structure can house 324 students and staff members in 14 classroom spaces (including two spaces for band, two spaces for choir and 10 regular classrooms).

Domingues has heard from community members, especially alumni, about the new addition, worrying whether it would fit in with the other buildings that make up one of California’ oldest schools.

“They did a fabulous job. It fits right in. That’s what impressed me as an alumni and community member is it fit right in,” Domingues said, adding a lot to alumni are proud of the reinvestment. 

Many of those alumni have returned to teach at the campus, he said. 

“There’s a lot of deep tradition at Santa Maria High School, including this guy right here,” Domingues said, pointing to a logo with the Sammy the Saint mascot. 

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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